The state Assembly has passed a bill prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks in Wisconsin. Thursday’s 61-34 vote clears the way for Republican Governor Scott Walker to sign the measure, which has already passed the state Senate. Walker is scheduled to announce his presidential campaign on Monday in Waukesha.
Minority Democrats spoke against the bill during Assembly floor debate, claiming it will interfere in often wrenching decisions that are best left between women and their doctors. “This isn’t something taken lightly,” said Representative Terese Berceau (D-Madison). “Don’t insult women. They’re genuinely grieving a wanted pregnancy, and they are suffering. This bill is making everyone involved a criminal.”
Backers of the legislation argue it is needed to prevent fetuses from feeling pain, which they argue is possible after 20 weeks of gestation. Critics, including a long list of medical professionals who testified at a public held at the Capitol in June, counter that it’s actually not possible for a fetus to feel pain until after 27 weeks into a pregnancy.
“You all don’t know what you’re doing with this bill, you really don’t” said Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison). “These are very, very complicated situations.”
But Republican proponents of he measure brushed aside concerns and objections, focusing on the pain issue. “This bill isn’t banning abortions, in fact this bill isn’t about abortion,” said Representative Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Allis). “This bill is about protecting children who are capable of feeling pain, from going through an extremely excruciating and painful experience.” Sanfelippo provided a graphic description of an abortion performed at 20 weeks.
The measure’s author, Representative Jesse Kremer (R-Kewauskum), claimed that doctors who oppose the assertion that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks have a pro-abortion bias. “Will you be able to press that red button and convince yourself that children who are dismembered at an age where they could potentially feel pain are not dying by means of cruel and unusual punishment,” Kremer asked. “If there’s any possibility at all that a pre-born child can truly feel pain at 5 months, are you willing to take that chance? This is an issue of humanity and morality.”